Where is the line between smart business practices and privacy rights? The National Rifle Association (NRA) has created a secret registry of current, former and prospective gun owners. As with any astute business, the NRA employed marketing tactics to establish a database of tens of millions of people, generally without their consent. The NRA built this list from gun permit registration lists, new owners from gun safety classes taught by NRA-certified instructors, buying lists of attendees of gun shows, and subscribers to gun magazines, as Buzzfeed reports. But strangely, the NRA supports the American Civil Liberties Union's lawsuit against the United States government for its broad domestic surveillance programs, fearing what would happen if the feds were to assemble a list of gun owners similar to their own.
Obviously there are huge differences in methods each entity used to gather private information on people, but are the intentions all that different? The governmental interception of phone and internet records from major telecommunications companies allows the U.S. government to identify members and non-members involved with the NRA without their knowledge or consent. This is pretty similar to the NRA's efforts to gather data for their communications purposes. Both the NRA and U.S. Justice Department declined to answer questions regarding their data powerhouses and how they use the private information.
The primary reason the NRA is backing ACLU in their lawsuit is because the government is gathering information the NRA already has, and nobody likes a fierce competitor. Others have pointed to a trust gap between the NRA and the U.S. government when it comes to collecting non-consensual data.
"Collecting data on U.S. citizens by the government causes serious privacy concerns. However, when achieved by private businesses or individuals my greatest concern is if the government can access it without a court order," stated former NRA lobbyist Richard Feldman.
It's important to consider why both the NRA and U.S. government want the same data, and both are disregarding ethics in its pursuit. While people may be more skeptical of government operations versus that of a business, ithe premise is the same: amassing data on millions of people without consent. One thing is for sure. Both are walking a fine line between privacy and security.